The organization’s design research maturity model –

Maturity models, often a business-school student and management consultant’s trusted ally, help us understand where we stand relative to others and show us a path to where we’re going — if not necessarily telling us how exactly to get there.

But reflecting on where our organizations — be them agencies, consultancies, or enterprise & in-house teams — exist in a spectrum across different levels of maturity allows us to identify where to take action and improve.

For instance, while at Forrester, Leah Buley interviewed about 100 organizations to understand where and how design teams existed in the larger organization, ultimately resulting in a webinar and additional presentations such as at UX Week 2015. One outcome of the research was a maturity model summarizing shared attributes of companies just introducing design to the organization all the way to organizations that rely on design as a respected, primary contributor to their balance sheet and product portfolio.

I explored a similar path at a smaller scale to ultimately create a model representing the maturity of design research within organizations, which I presented as part of my talk More Research More Frequently at Confab Central in May 2016.

Based empirically on about 60 survey results, interviews, casual conversations with design researchers, my own research team at Nasdaq, and my 15 years of experience, I found patterns across many organizations regardless of size, industry, or region that could be a helpful signpost indicating where you are on your journey to working where design research is primary tool to discovering new insights, validating existing hypotheses, and innovating into new and existing markets.

I established the attributes to be measured as the following:

  • Executive attitude toward research
  • Scope of the research
  • Purpose of design research
  • Staffing the research team
  • Audience of the research
  • Governance of the research

Likewise, the patterns indicated about 4 steps of growth organizations would likely undergo to become an organization that fully embraces design research. Those were simply:

  • Laggard
  • Early
  • Progressing
  • Modern

It’s certainly possible readers will find themselves in what could be a bingo board-like organization where the executive team is reserved and cautious but is enabling discovery research — not just too little usability testing too late.

Likewise, it’s also quite possible to revert from one state to another from project to project based on a variety of constraints, conditions, and other variables.

And others may cite any number of biases this effort could be subjected to based on one person’s (mine) observations, experiences, and a survey. Your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, objects in rear view mirror may be closer than they appear, and whatever you do, don’t get it wet, expose it to bright light, or feed it after midnight.

I’ve posted the maturity model in different formats (download it as Keynote or Powerpoint) with minimal formatting so you can use this in your own presentations and edit as needed. Attribution is appreciated but no Internet shaming will ensue if you don’t.

To learn more about how to progress from one state of maturity to another, check out the original post “Achieve More Research, More Frequently” and the slides from my talk at Confab. And if your governance strategy for managing design research assets consists of “did you check Basecamp if you can’t find it?”, consider checking out Mosaiq, Nasdaq Design’s own free research asset management WordPress theme.

Author: Chris Avore

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